Step foot onto Dennis McGuire’s Montana ranch and you’ll soon happen upon a number of natural warm springs winding through the meadows, creating boggy beds for moss-covered stones and drinking holes for local wildlife. As it turns out, another tiny treasure thrives there, too.
Poised to begin construction of his new log home in the summer of 2004, Dennis and a workman took a walk down by the springs, and came back with the name of Dennis’ ranch.
“The man reached down and picked this beautiful, little purple flower,” explains Dennis, founder and CEO of a Florida environmental company. “He said, ‘This is my favorite flower. It’s very rare because it only grows where it’s moist.’ When I asked what it was called, he told me it was a Shooting Star wildflower, and then he picked a few and handed them to me.” Delighted with the tiny blossoms, Dennis brought them to his wife Jackie who quickly agreed that Shooting Star Ranch would be the perfect name for their new home.
It’s fitting that the ranch is named for a small flower tucked among its 100 acres, since the McGuires’ handcrafted home also provides delight in its details. Not to mention the couple’s Big Sky property offers nightly shows of astronomical shooting stars, making a statement as bold as the striking house they built there.
When the McGuires first started thinking about building their new home, Dennis knew he loved the log home lifestyle, but he wasn’t partial to the smaller windows and rooms often associated with log construction. Once he learned about the innovative Glass Forest concept created by Whitefish-based designer Walt Landi of High Country Builders, Dennis was sold.
Walt’s Glass Forest technique features huge expanses of window glass, sandwiched between floor-to-ceiling log posts. The logs include not just the select round middles, but also the gnarled, stump bottoms, giving the appearance that the tree is growing right out of the floor. “It makes you feel like you’re still outside, since the glass between the trees seems to disappear,” Walt notes. “It captures the incredible mountain views and everything else in between.”
Walt incorporated Glass Forest window walls in the McGuires’ great room and in the master and primary guest bedrooms. The cedar “trees,” stripped of their bark but left in their natural taper, are about 14 inches wide at their tops and larger at the bottoms. They also are used as columns for interior spaces such as the hallway from the great room to the master suite and the entrance to the master-bath shower.
“The first thing you think when you walk in is ‘Wow! Look at these trees!’ ” Dennis says. “There’s the rustic, natural feeling of log construction, but with a unique twist.”
Once visitors get past the initial “wow” factor of the virtual forest growing inside Dennis and Jackie’s home, they start to take in the overall feel of the lodge-inspired setting. Rich, dark wood and natural stone dominate the 27-by-28-foot great room. Look up and you’ll see the vaulted ceiling is a girder-truss system of spruce and lodgepole pine logs, some up to 40 feet long with 18-inch diameters. A two-sided stone fireplace opens to a cozy seating section of the great room and to the adjoining media room.
The home’s textured plaster walls are painted sienna yellow. Dennis notes, “The bright wall color and dark stain on the logs make it look like a European ski lodge, like something you might see in the Swiss Alps where Jackie and I visited when we were dating.”
The master bedroom, like the nearly identical guest bedroom, has a 16-foot vaulted ceiling and a Glass Forest window offering panoramic mountain views. Between the two tree trunks, a built-in cabinet conceals a plasma television that rises from the cabinet for viewing.
The third bedroom is a 28-by-28-foot bunkroom, complete with eight custom bunks and a rustic table for trying your luck at Texas Holdem. The old-style ranch character continues throughout the room thanks to the multi-hued, reclaimed-wood floors and tall wainscoting. The bunkroom bath includes two showers and a three-faucet, trough-style sink for authentic communal living.
“You know that old proverb ‘The devil’s in the details’?” Dennis asks. “Well, that’s the story with this house. We paid close attention to the small stuff.”
Those details run from artist-rendered etched glass panels around the front door to willow-twig accents that carry from the kitchen cabinets to the master suite’s television cabinet and chandelier. “The entire house is like a hand-built puzzle, a piece of artwork,” Dennis says. Take, for example, the stonework in the great room fireplace where every stone was hand fitted, chipped and chiseled to fit perfectly.
And, to accommodate Dennis and Jackie’s love of the outdoors, Walt created thousands of feet of open-air living space. Stone terraces lead from the back of the house to a casual fire pit and an enclosed outdoor kitchen. There’s also a backyard barbecue pavilion with a walk-in fireplace — modeled after one at Montana’s Glacier National Park — that is so large an adult can stand in its opening. It’s one of Dennis’ favorite features.
For now, Shooting Star Ranch is the McGuires’ vacation home, but they are contemplating lifestyle changes so they can spend more time there. “‘Walt exceeded all our expectations for this house,” Dennis says. “We are just in love with it.”